Endangered tigers making a ‘remarkable’ comeback

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Millions watched them in captivity on the lockdown TV hit Tiger King.

But in the wild, tiger populations have been in rapid decline for decades now.

There is some positive news though, because after years of concern, the number of wild tigers in some areas does now seem to be rising.

New figures by wildlife charity WWF suggest a resurgence in their numbers. Experts are even describing it as a “remarkable comeback”.

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In Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park the population rose from only 10 tigers a decade ago to 22 in 2019.

In 2010, there were as few as 3,200 wild tigers. But now five countries – India, China, Nepal, Russia and Bhutan – have given hope for the future.

In India alone, the number of wild tigers is now estimated at between 2,600 and 3,350 animals – which makes up around three-quarters of the world’s population.

Neighbouring Nepal has seen its population of tigers is up from 121 in 2009 to 235 just under a decade later.

And it’s the same story in Russia, Bhutan and China, where increased sightings of tigers suggest conservation efforts are working.

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In Russia, Amur tiger numbers have increased by 15% in the past 10 years to around 540 animals.

“Tigers can thrive happily given enough space, good or water. So the progress is a result of tigers and their habitat being better protected,” Becci May tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Becci is WWF’s UK regional manager and says while this is good news, threats still exist to the tiger population.

“The reason why numbers have plummeted over the last 100 years or so is because of changes to land use,” she says.

Loss of habitat, hunting and poaching remains a very real threat.

“Wildlife populations are also devastated because of snares being set to catch wildlife,” she adds.

Recent analysis estimates there are 12.3 million snares threatening wildlife in protected areas of Southeast Asia.

What can we do to protect tigers?

Becci says “a real team effort” is needed.

“We need to share our enthusiasm for tigers and tell our friends and family how important it is.”

She says we can ensure the items we buy, such as wood and paper, don’t come as a result of illegal logging, which harms tigers.

“If you look at the labels, you can see that if you get it from the right source, you may be helping to protect those forests, habitats and tigers.”

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In 2010 China had no more than 20 wild tigers, but recent pictures suggest breeding is underway.

Other countries can learn from the likes of India and Nepal which have seen big increases.

“Tiger conservation will not be successful without the support of governments and political will,” says Becci.

“We need the engagement and support of local communities who are actually living in the areas where the tigers live.”

That means supporting communities and including them in the conservation efforts.

“And with a collective effort, we’ve shown that we can turn the tide for tigers,” she adds.

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